In June, LeBron James became the first active athlete to be recognized as a billionaire by Forbes. Moreover, the 37-year-old already has four NBA championships and four MVP Awards. Meanwhile, if he stays healthy, he should pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the league’s career points record this season. In addition, his paychecks along the way will set another all-time mark.
Moreover, James will become the highest-paid NBA player ever, surpassing the estimated $121.2 million he raked over the 12 months ending in May. Meanwhile, this is his ninth straight year atop basketball’s earnings ranking, and he is ahead of No. 2 Stephen Curry by $29.4 million. However, the combined earnings of the NBA’s top 10 players, up 5% from last year’s record total of $714 million before taxes and agency fees, are expected to reach $751 million.
According to Forbes estimates, the number of the NBA’s top ten highest-paid players will earn an estimated $330 million off the court this season. Meanwhile, that is the best figure for any sports league, with the NFL’s top earners taking in $120 million. Moreover, the NBA’s total represents an 8% improvement on last year’s record of $306 million and a 123% jump from a decade ago.
Moreover, the salary cap and luxury-tax threshold have risen dramatically since 2012-13. The maximum salary for NBA players is $123.7 million this season, up from $58 million a year earlier. That’s because players are guaranteed 50% of the NBA’s basketball-related income. Moreover, the league’s national media contracts could double in value within the next few years.
Here is the list of the NBA’s top ten highest-paid players:
LeBron James ($124.5 million)
According to Forbes estimates, just ten active sportsmen have earned more than $100 million in pretax income in a year. James is the only five to have done it in a team sport (after soccer stars Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar and NFL quarterback Dak Prescott). However, Forbes’ earnings estimates do not include a sizable portion of the 37-year-old Lakers forward’s off-court activities as an investor and business owner, including the SpringHill Co., the entertainment development and production company he cofounded that was valued at about $725 million in a deal last year.
Moreover, James is a co-founder of Ladder, a sports nutrition company whose supplements were first made available in retail stores in July thanks to a partnership with the Vitamin Shoppe. In addition, Ladder makes sports nutrition products, and James recently invested in German bicycle manufacturer Canyon Bicycles, carbon-neutral milk brand Neutral Foods, and a Major League Pickleball team. Meanwhile, the latest version of LeBron 20—a number commemorating his 20 years playing in the NBA and his 20 years working with Nike—was released last month.
Stephen Curry ($95.1 million)
Curry will earn more money on the court this season than any other player, as he has just begun a four-year, $215 million deal extension that will pay him $59.6 million in 2025–26. Meanwhile, LeBron James is Curry’s sole rival in off-court earnings, and his $95.1 million total would have set an NBA earnings record as recently as the 2019–20 season.
In addition to becoming a playable character in the brand-new video game PGA 2K23, the 34-year-old Warriors guard and enthusiastic golfer also recently released the children’s book I Have a Superpower. In the meantime, his content company, Unanimous Media, is collaborating on the animated Netflix remake of the 1970s sitcom Good Times, and Curry Brand, his Under Armour imprint, is preparing to release the tenth iteration of his signature sneaker amid rumours that the shoemaker wants to offer him a lifetime deal.
Kevin Durant ($88 million)
Durant is relocating to the Nets for the first year of a four-year, $198 million agreement he signed in 2021 after trying unsuccessfully to be traded during the summer. Moreover, through his media company, Boardroom, the 34-year-old forward partnered with FanDuel in February and supported League One Volleyball in the first women’s professional league’s Series A round two weeks ago.
His venture capital firm 35V, which has holdings in over 75 enterprises, has also recently invested in the Premier Lacrosse League, Venus Williams’ nutrition brand Happy Viking, and Athletes Unlimited, which oversees women’s sports leagues.
Giannis Antetokounmpo ($86.5 millions)
Antetokounmpo is the only player among the top 10 earnings in the NBA who is under 30 for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Bucks forward, featured in the Disney+ original movie Rise, has ties with luxury timepiece Breitling and online gambling site Novibet, in addition to investing in a variety of businesses, including telemedicine platform Antidote Health. Moreover, along with his four brothers, he most recently built a store called AntetokounBros near the airport in his birthplace Athens.
Russell Westbrook ($82.1 million)
Following a deal with the Washington Wizards in July 2021, Westbrook had a rocky first season in Los Angeles, but he chose to activate his $47.1 million option to rejoin the Lakers this season. Meanwhile, in July, the 33-year-old guard, a native of the Los Angeles region who owns ten car dealerships in southern California, created a media company called RW Digital in collaboration with the marketing agency Causal IQ to assist businesses in reaching a wide range of consumers. Moreover, he just advertised his 13,000-square-foot property in Los Angeles for under $30 million, so he could soon receive another sizable cheque.
Klay Thompson ($60.6 million)
As Golden State tries to keep him healthy, Thompson, who returned to the floor with the Warriors in January after missing two seasons due to injury, has been waiting on the sidelines throughout the preseason out of caution. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old guard has added Buffalo Wild Wings, Mountain Dew, and NBA Top Shot Manufacturer Dapper Labs to his extensive list of sponsors in the past year. Moreover, he will become a free agent in 2024. He is one of the four athletes that founded the Just Live CBD company.
Damian Lillard ($60.5 million)
Lillard will attempt to lead the Trail Blazers back to the postseason after missing the playoffs in April for the first time since his rookie year in 2012–13. Meanwhile, Lillard signed a two-year, $122 million deal in July that, together with his previous contract, may postpone his free agency until 2027. Moreover, he cofounded Move, a company that creates athletic shoe insoles, late last year, and he just added Bose and sneaker store Kicks Crew to his already extensive roster of sponsorships. Additionally, the 32-year-old guard is said to have contributed to creating the Trail Blazers’ brand-new “Statement Edition” outfit.
James Harden ($53 million)
Harden re-signed with the 76ers on a two-year, $68.6 million deal with a player option for the 2023–24 season after declining a $47.4 million player option for this season. Meanwhile, with the signing of De’Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker, and Danuel House, Philadelphia was able to be active in the off-season. However, the new agreement will result in him earning $14.4 million less in 2022–2023 than expected. In addition to investing in Tequila Gran Diamante this year, Harden, who lately has favored stock partnerships over traditional sponsorships, also expanded his network of Crunch Fitness franchises by opening a facility in Katy, Texas. Moreover, along with opening an upmarket eatery in Houston called Thirteen by James Harden, the 33-year-old guard also launched his wine line in collaboration with Accolade Wines.
Paul George ($51 million)
George returns to lead the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard, who is making a full recovery from a knee injury that sidelined him for the whole 2021–22 season. Meanwhile, George missed three months of the previous season due to an elbow ailment. However, the 32-year-old swingman recently inked sponsorship agreements with American Express, banking app Chime, NFT company Recur, and Crypto.com, the new naming rights partner of the arena the Clippers and Lakers share.
Jimmy Butler ($49.7 million)
The Heat trusted Butler last year when he signed a three-year, $146.4 million agreement with a player option for 2025–26. Meanwhile, Butler promptly paid off their bet as he led Miami on a postseason run that ended five points short of the NBA finals. However, when the NBA’s 2020 playoff bubble was in Florida, Butler started selling $20 cups of coffee out of his hotel room. Moreover, last October, he launched the coffee brand BigFace, turning his half-serious side gig into an honest company. Meanwhile, a subsequent activation at the Miami Open tennis tournament in the spring gave his business a ton of publicity.
In addition, Butler has other ties to racket sports as well; in February, he served as the honorary chair of the Miami Padel Open and is a passionate supporter of the emerging sport of Padel. The 33-year-old forward has also declared that a country record is on the way.